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Deadline Approaching

The tax deadline is only 2 weeks away. Here are some last minute tips you can use before the sands of the tax hourglass run out.

With the tax filing deadline close at hand, the IRS offers some advice for those still working on their paper tax forms:

Consider filing electronically instead of using paper tax forms

Put all required Social Security numbers on the return

Double-check your figures and sign your form

Attach all required schedules

Send your return or request an extension by the April filing deadline

Choosing to e-file your tax return instead of preparing a paper tax form is the best step you can take to ensure that your return is accurate and complete.

When e-filing a tax return you will also receive your return faster and have it directly deposited into your checking or savings account.

When you file a paper return, the numbers to check most carefully on the tax return are the identification numbers - usually Social Security numbers - for each person listed. This includes the taxpayer, spouse, dependents and persons listed in relation to claims for the Child and Dependent Care Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit. Missing, incorrect or illegible Social Security Numbers can delay or reduce a tax refund.

Taxpayers filing paper returns should also double-check that they have correctly figured the refund or balance due and have used the right figure from the tax table.

Taxpayers must sign and date their returns. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one had income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign it.

People sending a payment should make the check out to "United States Treasury" and should enclose it with, but not attach it to the tax return or the Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. The check should include the taxpayer's Social Security number, daytime phone number, the tax year and the type of form filed.

By the April due date, taxpayers should either file a return or request an extension of time to file. Remember, the extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.

Forms and publications and helpful information on a variety of tax subjects are available around the clock on the IRS Web site at IRS.gov.Remember that for the genuine IRS Web site be sure to use .gov. Don't be confused by internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. The address of the official IRS governmental Web site is www.irs.gov.

 

    

 


 

   
 
 

Some get the idea in their head that more expensive means better quality. This isn't true when it comes to moving your personal belongings from one home to another. There are ways that you can cut the high costs of moving while keeping quality.

The first thing you need to do is determine how much your budget will allow you to spend on your move and stick to that number. Don't forget to include additional moving expenses such as home repairs, pet deposits, personal storage costs, and tips for your moving company.

It is recommended that you create a detailed moving file that includes any documents and receipts that relate to the move. Many people aren't aware that their moving expenses might even be tax deductible. You should keep decent records and consult your accountant to find out exactly what is tax deductible.

Depending on your budget and personal capabilities you will next have to determine whether you are going to hire a moving company, rent a moving truck, or hire a self service moving company. For those that don't want to drive a large rental truck you can opt for a self service moving company which can save you a considerable amount of money when compared to a full service moving company.

Once you have decided what types of services you will need from a moving company you should get several quotes from different moving companies to make sure you get the best price. If something seems too good to be true it probably is so be sure to ask for references of recent customers.

Begin packing your belongings well before the actual moving date to ensure that you are fully prepared. Collect boxes and other moving supplies ahead of time so you can find discounts. Rather than using pricey bubble wrap you can use newspaper and towels or other linen to line your breakables.

If you are willing and able to do much of the work on your own then you can save a considerable amount of money. Even packing a portion of your items will save you a lot of money.

A simple way to save money when moving is on boxes. Most people take the easy route and purchase boxes from a moving company and while these are guaranteed to be clean and sturdy they are also quite expensive. You can easily save over a hundred dollars on boxes by going to grocery stores and asking for their old boxes. Generally you can find sturdy boxes that have only been used once.

The most expensive way to move is if you hire a full service moving company to come in to your home, pack all of your belongings for you, provide the shipping materials, as well as moving your belongings to the new home and unloading them. You can cut these costs by choosing to pack your own belongings and load them in to a rented truck and drive them to your new home by yourself.

 

 

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Earning Extra Cash

The long hot days of summer are on their way. What a great time to earn a little extra cash while freeing up some space that is filled with stuff you haven't used in years. Whether you call it a yard, garage, or rummage sale, with a little effort you can become part of the great American summer pastime. Here are some great tips to use to help you have your own garage sale.

Be clear on the purpose of your sale. Are you selling things to make money or to get rid of them? This question affects everything you do, from how you price things to how willing you are be to negotiate. Surprisingly, you can often make more money (and get rid of more junk) by pricing things low. (If your goal is to get top dollar, you should really be selling on eBay or Craigslist.)

First thing you need to do is sort through your things and determine what you can depart with. You are going to want to do this a couple of times because you will be surprised how little you have chosen to actually sell. When contemplating whether or not to get rid of an item ask yourself, Òwhen was the last time anyone used this.Ó Even some sentimental items should be considered. I'm not saying get rid of all of your first child's baby items, just limit the things that you have. If you find something that you forgot you had then it is probably a good contender for the sale.

Don't neglect an item because you don't think it will sell. It may just be what that person was looking for, even if it is an incomplete set of something. Someone may buy it because it fulfills his or her missing set. If you have some items that have broken pieces or you think are not worth that much, you may want to label these freebies. This will also help bring in customers.

You will want to recruit some help. Ask family members, friends, or neighbors. Invite them to include some of their items to sell as well. Use colored stickers for price tags and assign a specific color to each person and then take the tag off the item when it is purchased. At the end of the day total each person's sales and distribute the money. You will have to pick a weekend that works for everyone and then set up how long you want to have it. Plan to start as early as possible; it is not unusual for people to be out at 6 a.m. looking for yard sales.

There will be some small advertising expenses for you to set this up. You will have to buy some poster-board, a staple gun, balloons or anything else you think will help advertise your sale. Use bright signs that will get the attention of customers and that will help direct them to your home. If you have some high end products for sale like electronics, furniture, or exercise equipment, put that on your advertisement. Use grocery store and community bulletin boards to list some of the items you will be selling along with the time, date, and location of the sale. Many newspapers feature a section for garage sales and are reasonably affordable.
Other things you will want to get ahead of time are extra card tables, a money belt (more secure than a lock box), and at least $50 change in smaller bills.

It may be hard to determine what you should charge for an item. If you are considering any older antique items it may be a good idea to get them appraised if you don't know the value of it. You don't want to give away something that could be valuable. Feel free to negotiate the price with a customer. If an item is in good shape and works properly you can generally ask for a quarter of the original price. You will also want to make sure all the items you are selling are clean and in good shape.

Be friendly and social with your customers. Welcome them as they walk up to the sale. DonÕt bad mouth the products you are trying to sell.

Pack up any items that did not sell and take them to a consignment shop where they will tag your items and give you a portion of the sales. If you have any bigger or nicer items that didn't sell you can hang on to them for a while and advertise them in the paper.

So get out there and enjoy the summer, get rid of some of your unwanted items, and try and make a buck or two.

 

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Tax Credit

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorizes a tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time home buyers purchasing a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.

Who is eligible to claim the tax credit?
First-time home buyers purchasing any kind of home-new or resale-are eligible for the tax credit. To qualify for the tax credit, a home purchase must occur on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009. For the purposes of the tax credit, the purchase date is the date when closing occurs and the title to the property transfers to the home owner.

What is the definition of a first-time home buyer?
The law defines "first-time home buyer" as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse.

For example, if you have not owned a home in the past three years but your spouse has owned a principal residence, neither you nor your spouse qualifies for the first-time home buyer tax credit. However, unmarried joint purchasers may allocate the credit amount to any buyer who qualifies as a first-time buyer, such as may occur if a parent jointly purchases a home with a son or daughter. Ownership of a vacation home or rental property not used as a principal residence does not disqualify a buyer as a first-time home buyer.

How is the amount of the tax credit determined?
The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home's purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.

How is this home buyer tax credit different from the tax credit that Congress enacted in July of 2008?
The most significant difference is that this tax credit does not have to be repaid. Because it had to be repaid, the previous "credit" was essentially an interest-free loan. This tax incentive is a true tax credit. However, home buyers must use the residence as a principal residence for at least three years or face recapture of the tax credit amount. Certain exceptions apply.

How do I claim the tax credit? Do I need to complete a form or application?
Participating in the tax credit program is easy. You claim the tax credit on your federal income tax return. Specifically, home buyers should complete IRS Form 5405 to determine their tax credit amount, and then claim this amount on Line 69 of their 1040 income tax return. No other applications or forms are required, and no pre-approval is necessary. However, you will want to be sure that you qualify for the credit under the income limits and first-time home buyer tests. Note that you cannot claim the credit on Form 5405 for an intended purchase for some future date; it must be a completed purchase.

What types of homes will qualify for the tax credit?
Any home that will be used as a principal residence will qualify for the credit. This includes single-family detached homes, attached homes like townhouses and condominiums, manufactured homes (also known as mobile homes) and houseboats. The definition of principal residence is identical to the one used to determine whether you may qualify for the $250,000 / $500,000 capital gain tax exclusion for principal residences.

I purchased a home in early 2009 and have already filed to receive the $7,500 tax credit on my 2008 tax returns. How can I claim the new $8,000 tax credit instead?
Home buyers in this situation may file an amended 2008 tax return with a 1040X form. You should consult with a tax advisor to ensure you file this return properly.

Is a tax credit the same as a tax deduction?
No. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in what the taxpayer owes. That means that a taxpayer who owes $8,000 in income taxes and who receives an $8,000 tax credit would owe nothing to the IRS. A tax deduction is subtracted from the amount of income that is taxed. Using the same example, assume the taxpayer is in the 15 percent tax bracket and owes $8,000 in income taxes. If the taxpayer receives an $8,000 deduction, the taxpayerÕs tax liability would be reduced by $1,200 (15 percent of $8,000), or lowered from $8,000 to $6,800.

The previous questions and answers provide basic information about the tax credit. If you have more specific questions, we strongly encourage you to consult a qualified tax advisor or legal professional about your unique situation.

 

 

 

 
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Do we are officially in baby countdown mode as it is less than 30 days away from the due date and as the doctor has informed us it could be any day. Yikes! Not that I am nervous about the baby actually coming just the fact that there are still a few things that need to be purchased.

The weather has also thrown a curve into our brilliant plan. When we first planned for our second child we wanted to plan it so my wife could take the maximum amount of time off. That is the 6 weeks allowed for work then the 3-month summer vacation teachers get. Well mother nature has decided that we haven't got enough snow yet and we have had some late season storms that have caused school closures. This in turn pushes the last day of school further into summer and may have to cause my wife to return from maternity leave a few days before summer vacation.

She could use some of her sick days but then not be covered by insurance over the summer, which we can't do. Also, we could take the new baby to daycare but then we have to pay. I know there isn't much we can do about the weather; it just goes to show you that no matter how carefully you strategize things always seem to pop up.

Maybe if we are lucky we can find a few things at a garage sale or two. I know we definitely took advantage of this for our first child and bought many things we found at garage sales. On the other side of that, is that we could also benefit from having a garage sale ourselves. We are starting to accumulate many things and I find that the storage space in our house is starting to fill up considerably and with the addition of another family member I can only assume that it will get worse.

I know that if we had any amount of extra time we could find many things of value that we just don't need anymore. The problem though is time and the fact that we can't seem to find any extra amount of it anymore.

My brother was the one who brought to my attention the first-time home buyer tax credit. Him and his fiancˇ just bought their first house and were told that they could get the $8,000 tax credit. He asked me if it was true and I hadn't heard of it but a quick search on the Internet and to irs.gov and I found a lot of valuable information. This seems like a great opportunity for those looking to buy their new home and if you are lucky enough to be able to buy a house this seems like a good market for buyers.

You will probably see more articles in the future about the housing industry and the responsibilities that come with purchasing a home. It's important that we are trying to clean up the industry where so many bad loans hurt the overall economy. It's also important as consumer to educate ourselves about the ins and outs of home buying.

I wish I knew there were classes available that my wife and I could have taken before we began looking for a house. I was pleased with our situation but I would have been more comfortable and may have done a couple of things different that would have benefited us. We, at Pioneer now offer free classes for those interested (see ad below) and I encourage anyone looking at buying a home to find classes in your area to help you become more informed. It can save you and prevent you from making mistakes.

Until next month, Good luck and have fun.

 

 
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What You Need to Know

There is a program available to older homeowners that can provide them with some extra financial security in tough times. It is called a reverse mortgage and it's becoming more popular in the United States.

A reverse mortgage is a home loan that pays you cash using your home's equity. You can receive the payments in a lump sum, monthly, or in pre-determined increments. Unlike a home equity loan or line of credit, the loan does not have to be paid back until the home is no longer your primary residence. You can also qualify for the loan without any current income. This plays well for those who are only living off their retirement or Social Security. Another difference is you can never owe more than your home's value.

There are some specific stipulations to qualify for a reverse mortgage. First, you have to be over the age of 62 and have your mortgage paid off or with a very small balance left. With some loans you may have to agree to maintain the property's appearance to ensure it's value. You also have to continue to pay your property taxes and insurance.

These are some factors that determine the amount of money that the homeowner can receive from the loan.

The appraised value of the home.

The starting interest rate.

The age of the homeowner.

The location of the home.


All of these will determine the amount that will become available to the homeowner. Generally, the more valuable your home is, the older you are, and the lower the interest the more you can borrow.

If the borrower decides to sell the home or passes away, then the loan has to be paid in full. So if you sell your home you will have to pay the loan back using the profits from selling the house. This can be a problem if the borrower is moving out of the home and into a long term elderly care facility. Instead of having all the money from selling the house some of it will have to be used to pay back the reverse mortgage loan that was taken out. It is important to account for the amount of money available after the payback of the loan and not the amount of the total home sale.

If the homeowner passes away then the debt needs to be paid by the estate or remaining family members. This could put a burden on those that have to take care of the estate planning. It's important that you discuss this with family members so they know the details. The heirs to the estate are responsible for paying off the outstanding debt, usually with the proceeds from selling the house. The heirs of the estate may also refinance the debt.

If the estate is having a difficult time selling the property they may request an extension from the lender, in which they need to provide proof that they are trying to sell the house or obtaining ways to pay off the debt. After a year there is no further extension of time provided by the lenders. The year extension also applies to those who are just merely moving out of the home and trying to sell the property.

With a reverse mortgage there are plenty of fees and upfront costs that come with it. Many of the costs are those that are similar with refinancing a home or taking out a line of credit. There will be closing costs associated with the loan that you will have to take into account.

There are certain reverse mortgages that require you to meet with a financial counselor that is approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The counseling is usually free and is very helpful in answering your questions or concerns. A counselor will explain to you your options and determine if a reverse mortgage is a viable option for you. By contacting HUD or AARP you will find a list of approved counselors.

Even if you are not required to meet with a counselor it may be a good idea to get all of your questions answered and find out what you can expect to pay upfront and what you can expect to get from your loan.



 
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